A Dreary Afternoon at Versailles
Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together.
This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you as we shelter in place.
November 20th, 2018 :: Posted June 7th, 2020
We departed for Versailles in good weather ~ bluish skies and cool temps. A pleasant train ride transported us about an hour southwest of Paris where an additional 10-minute walk from the station led us to the palace. It was about noon when we arrived and traced the endless back-and-forth of the queue to its end in the Court of Honor. J went to get tickets as I stood in line and watched the sky shift to a pallid gray, bringing the onset of a cold drizzle. I popped the umbrella and we started our three-hour wait to enter the palace.
When you’re sightseeing, not every day can be a winner. I often remind myself of this when things like cold drizzle show up unexpectedly. This was followed by rain and wind and, by the time we were within reach of the palace entry, our coats were soaked and we were chilled to the bone except for the warmth given by a shared cup of hot chocolate fetched from a café. By this time the queue had dissipated, too. If we had just arrived later in the afternoon our entry would have been painless! Oh well. The woes of travel.
Versailles was initially built as a modest hunting lodge by King Louis XIII in 1624. He passed away in 1643, leaving the property to his four-year-old son Louis XIV who would eventually become the king of France. A regency council provided interim guidance until Louis was old enough to assume the role at the age of fifteen. Coincidentally, the coronation of King Louis XIV took place on June 7th, 1654 ~ exactly 366 years ago today.
A gilded fence silently proclaims the grandeur of Versailles with fleur-de-lis and crown details in the goldest gold. Into the Marble Courtyard, a geometric pattern adds unusual contrast to the ornate decor of the palace. The black and white marble tiles are original, from the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte in Maincy, France.
It was King Louis XIV’s fondness for Versailles (developed from numerous childhood stays and hunting excursions) that led him to begin an unrelenting quest to expand the lodge into a palace fit for a king. The expansion started in 1661 and continued even after his death in 1715.
Finally inside the Palace, we were starting to warm up. We toured a handful of the palace’s 2,300 rooms, each one exquisitely decorated with centuries-old paintings, furnishings and details … all the way down to gilded wood carvings and chipped paint on the doors.
The Hall of Mirrors endures as the most historic space within Versailles. It was here where leaders from the Allied powers and Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles, ending the First World War on June 28th, 1919.
The hall contains 30 paintings on the ceiling and 357 mirrored panels along one side. More than a dozen chandeliers light the space and its endless gilded details.
It was quite crowded inside so we toured quickly. The weather outside had cleared a bit so we moved on to the gardens extending northwest from the palace. Although it was a gray day and I was more focused on the unrelenting cold than I was on shooting photos, there were some nice opportunities to capture Versailles and the magnitude of the site.
On a sunny summer day, the outdoor gardens of Versailles must surely be a delight to explore. Standing at the North Terrace, they extend as far as the eye can see with fountains and sculptures in between. The Orangery is visible from a walking path to the southwest. Designed by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the Orangery houses orange, lemon, pomegranate and oleander trees in the winter which are moved outside to the parterre garden during the summer months.
I wish I had more and brighter photos to share of Versailles ~ it is so deserving of a full, robust report!
But as is always the case with Paris, I have something wonderful to look forward to when I return again … next time on a sunny day.